Signs are the most affordable means of advertising for many businesses, and most businesses — new or not — don’t have a dollar to waste. They create a first and lasting impression on clients, and the beauty is once they’re up, they’re always on the job for you, advertising 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers the following design tips to get the most bang for your signmaking buck.

1. Keep it visible and legible.  Remember that people of all ages are looking through a windshield, in traffic, day and night. They must be able to see and read your sign easily.

2. Save the details for the sale.  Don’t attempt to sell them with information on the sign — save that information until they are in your business.

3. Keep it simple.  Crowding the sign with too many words or lines of text makes it impossible to read from a distance. Use as few words as possible so your signage is legible. Three to five words are optimal for quick readability.

4. Grab attention. There should be something about the sign that will reach out and command attention. Ideally, the first read should be a large pictorial (a graphic or your company logo), but it can also be large dominating text.

5.  Your sign is your handshake. Your sign is your handshake with the buying public, and first impressions are lasting impressions. Your sign must project the image you want the public to have of you.

6. Appeal to impulse buyers. Many owners mistakenly think of a sign as merely a device that identifies the business. What they fail to realize is that 55% of all retail sales are a result of impulse buys. People see, shop, and buy.

7. Keep it near the viewer.  Put the sign as close to the street as allowable.

8. Make sure your sign is conspicuous. Your message competes in a complex environment. A passerby must be able to differentiate your sign from its surrounding environment.

9.  Avoid obstructions. Make certain the sign can be viewed without obstruction from any source. Drive past your business from all directions to help determine the most visible location for your sign.

10. Consider colors carefully. Too many colors take away from the quick readability of the sign. Again, stay simple. Make sure colors are contrasting. If you have several colors in a graphic, stay away from multi-colored lines of text or words. Black text is better.

11. Consistent visual image. Ideally, the design and the colors of your building should reinforce the design and colors of your sign (and vice versa).

12. Avoid clutter. “White-space” is the surface area of a sign's face that is left uncovered by either text or graphics. The proper amount of white space is just as important for quick readability as graphics, text, and colors. Leave 30% to 40% of the sign’s face area white space for optimal readability.

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